A declaration filed May 24 in an Alameda County Superior Court lawsuit regarding conditions at DJJ prisons included documentation that some youth inmates aren’t receiving the minimum three hours per day of out-of-room time that they should.
“(T)he most frequent failure to meet out-of-room requirements has occurred at Ventura Youth Correctional Facility,” Nancy Campbell, a court-appointed special master in the case, wrote in a May 20 memo. “In the 14 weeks documented, there were 173 out of 1,453 incidents during which youth on TD (temporary detention) or TIP (temporary intervention plans) spent more than 21 of 24 hours confined to his or her rooms. Other DJJ facilities struggle to meet mandated services requirements as well.”
More than a dozen members of Books Not Bars, a campaign of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, have children who have spent 23-plus hours a day locked up in cold cells with little human contact and zero programming.
“The DJJ abuses my son by keeping him in solitary confinement. The last time I saw him, he had bruises on his face and he couldn’t hold a conversation with me. How could they do this to our children?” Books Not Bars member Maria Sanchaz said in a news release; her son is locked up in the Ventura facility.
Books not Bars says the special master’s report also indicates DJJ is failing to provide youth inmates with the minimum education required every day and, due to high levels of institutional violence, is canceling medical appointments without rescheduling them.
“The use of solitary confinement is one of the most egregious violations we’ve seen from California Division of Juvenile Justice,” Ella Baker Center Executive Director Jakada Imani said in a news release. “Extensive isolation amounts to torture and trauma for our youth- the exact opposite of the rehabilitation the DJJ is tasked with providing. Californians should be outraged that Secretary Matthew Cate is allowing this dangerous and abusive practice to persist.”
This video posted last year by DJJ paints a rosier picture of life at the Ventura Youth Correctional Facility, and includes some views of the youth inmates’ rooms: